High Speed Gear Suspenders



June 2002 - A thread on AW, and my own needs, prompted me to talk to Gene at High Speed Gear Inc. about designing low-profile suspenders that would be strong enough to support the weight of a belt rig and be compatible with vests, armour etc. Gene said 'Shoot me a sketch and I'll make you one'. Here's what came of that.

Background: A common gear setup seen nowadays consists of some kind of belt, and drop holster for a handgun, and a magazine thigh rig, all worn in conjunction with a load bearing vest. Sometimes the weight of this rig starts pulling your pants down, or starts digging into your hips. Currently available elastic suspenders cannot support the weight of the rig, and regular LBE suspenders are too bulky to wear under a vest or armour. The idea was to come up with suspenders to help offload the weight of the belt rig from the hips (so you can wear the belt a bit looser and not worry about it slipping down) and low profile enough to wear comfortably under a vest or body armour. The proposed solution: High Speed Gear's 'Low Drag' (HSLD) Suspenders. BTW, I came up with that name too :-)

The challenge was to come up with suspenders that would support the weight of a belt rig, but also had some elasticity to keep the straps on the shoulders and have some 'give' when moving. I came up with a simple design and sent the sketches to Gene to make for me. We went exchanged ideas and came up with some changes to my original sketches and Gene made up the first prototype.
Below are pictures of Gene's first prototype, based on my initial sketches but you can get the general idea of what it looked like. Since I was the test guinea pig, I tried it out, and gave Gene some feedback. (read on for Prototype II)


Click on thumbs for bigger pics

HSLD suspenders used to hold up BDU pants, in conjunction with an SOE rigger belt. Suspenders are made from 1.5" wide cordura webbing. Belt attachment straps are 1" wide. (update: the 'X' will now be a floating X with a strap seperator, instead of being sewn. The rear adjustment triglides will also be got rid off, so that they won't be felt when wearing a pack etc.)

HSLD suspenders used with BH padded pistol belt. The suspenders can be used with wide or narrow belts. Also shown is a custom M4 mag thigh rig also from HSG, with horizontal pistol mag pouches. The prototype shows length adjustments on the front and back, but later models may do away with the ones on the back for more comfort when wearing a pack.

Gene's method used on his thigh rig and holster thing straps was applied here, to provide elastic tension. Gene used a length of shock cord looped around that would support the weight of the rig, but also have some 'give' (left pic). When fully stretched out, a loop of paracord stops the shock cord from over-extending (middle pic). The shock cord and paracord can be user-replaced and adjusted. The right picture shows the rear of the HSLD suspenders. You can see the reducer from 1.5" to 1". (update: the inside of the belt strap will have hook velcro to interface with the loop velcro that lines many tactical belts, and also provide some 'grip' on other belts to prevent sideways slipping)


These are the 2nd prototype suspenders made in tan (the straps are more of a 'bronze' colour) with some changes incorporated. The rear adjustment triglides have been eliminated for comfort and instead of sewing the 'X', a plastic strap divider has been used so that the 'X' can float (right pic). The divider is flat and will not feel uncomfortable under a pack since it sits between the back muscles. (I have since sewn this 'X' like the first prototype after I found the position I liked and got rid of the plastic divider). Everyone wears them differently so it's not practical to fix the location of the 'X' before you try it on and use it for a while.

In the left pic, the suspenders are attached to the outer belt of a BH padded web belt and tightened with the ladder lock. The strap can be looped back through the ladder lock for more security and tucked behind the belt if desired (right pic).

To show the different belt widths that the suspenders can accomodate, on the left, the loop is wrapped around the belt and pad of the BH web belt (3-1/2" width) and on the right it is used with an SOE rigger belt (1-3/4" width).

Another change from the 1st prototype is the addition of hook velcro on the inside of the belt strap. This interfaces with the loop velcro that commonly lines many belts and prevents the strap from sliding on the belt, maintaining its position.

PROTOTYPE I - (From my AW post) So far, I've done a bit of walking, jumping up and down, moving etc with a handgun, 5 pistol mags and 4 M4 30-rnd mags, all loaded, to test the suspenders (as seen in the setup above). Before, I had to keep the belt tight enough around my waist so that it wouldn't start slipping down my waist. Now, I can make it a bit looser (which helps when squatting or bending - it doesn't feel like your spare tire is going to burst! :-) since i'm not worried about the belt falling down. There's also less fatigue around the hip area since the weight is now shared partly by the shoulders. Since it's not a full combat load like an LBE, there isn't much fatigue on the shoulders. Wearing armour over the suspenders was fine, except for the triglides in the back, which Gene is getting rid of. The front ones posted no problems. It's not like wearing a nice pair of elastic dress suspenders (which i don't wear anyway - i work for a living), but it's definitely more comfy that a GI H-harness. So far, the suspenders look very promising.
PROTOTYPE II/PRODUCTION MODEL - This addresses the issues brought up with the first prototype. I used the same belt load to test it out. The floating X adjusts to match your shoulder width automatically. The lack of triglides in the back allows body armour, a vest, or a pack to be worn without them sticking into your back. I initially thought that the plastic strap divider would be uncomfortable under a pack but it has a very thin profile, and sits in the natural valley in the middle of the back over your spine. I wore an Eagle BPP and didn't feel it at all. The velcro on the insides of the belt loops eliminate shifting of the suspenders on the belt. I also tried on my 20lb Ranger Body Armour vest over the suspenders and they were very comfy under it. They will work either under or over low profile body armour. I found that the load that I was using was a bit heavy for the suspenders to support completely, with a loose belt. The suspenders worked best when the weight was distributed between them and the belt. I was able to loosen the belt up enough to be more comfortable than normal, without it slipping down my hips. The suspenders did not get in the way while bending down and twisting because of their elastic tension.

I've very happy with the way they turned out. They meet a need that hasn't currently been met, as far as I know. Time will tell how they work under long term use under tactical conditions, so I'd be interested in seeing how they fare. If you want low profile suspenders to help offload a tactical belt rig without the bulk of GI harnesses, then the HSLD suspenders are worth trying.

Gene informed me that the suspenders are growing in popularity and are getting very favourable reviews from military and non-military personnel alike. I'm very happy to hear that I've contributed to a design that is of some use to people.

Some features of HSLD suspenders:

  • Can be used to hold up pants only
  • Compatible with any width belt (should be a stiff belt)
  • Can be worn over or under body armor, or under a load bearing vest
  • Allows some weight to be taken off the hips and a looser belt
  • Prevents belt rig from slipping down when running
  • Adds practically no bulk
  • Proudly made in the USA by HSGI
  • Available in OD, Black and Tan/Brown

For more info, write info@highspeedgearinc.com or visit http://www.highspeedgearinc.com

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